The writer to the Hebrews now breaks forth into a very meaningful and exalted prayer for the Hebrew saints. He directs this prayer in the form of a very fervent hope and wish to the God of peace, He really confesses that it is all outside of his power to bring about the perfection of the Hebrews, and to impel them to any good work. Here all moral persuasion falls flat and proves to be a lie. Nothing short of a new creation itself will do. Here we have the teaching that is “denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, a making alive which God works in us without our aid” (Canons III, IV, 12). Here we stand on the high plateau of the well-known text, “for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Only when we are filled with the spiritual consciousness that God works in us “both to will and to do” will we work down to a finished touch our entire life in sanctification, being filled with the mind of Christ.
Such is, the covenant life of the saints in the New Covenant which God made when He brought forth the church out of the Egypt of sin’s guilt and bondage of corruption. He will write His law upon our hearts in tables of flesh and not of stone, and put His law in our minds and affections. And in this covenant He will be our God, and we shall be His people (Hebrews 8:8-12; II Cor. 3:1-3). This will be the work of the life-giving (working) Spirit, the Spirit of the living Christ. And to this God, Who works peace, the writer appeals at the end of this great letter. Also in this prayer all is “better.” This prayer fits with the Christ, the Son, who is greater than all the angels (Heb. 1:1 ff.); greater than Moses, although he was faithful in all of God’s house (Heb. 3:1-6; greater and better in his priesthood than Aaron (Heb. 7:1 ff.); a better covenant based upon better promises (Heb. 8:6); a better and greater tabernacle not made with hands (Heb. 9:9); a temple in which we may draw nigh to the throne of grace in the full assurance of faith. Here the pattern shown to Moses on the mount of Horeb comes to its full manifestation: He that sitteth on the throne (Holy of holies, ark of the covenant); the seven Spirits before the throne (the golden candlestick in the holy place); and the Lamb that is slain, the firstbegotten out of the dead (the altar and sacrifices in the forecourt) (Rev. 1:4, 5). Here we can sing our joyful and confident doxological prayers. Thus does the writer to the Hebrews in the passage under consideration.
THE GREAT GOD OF PEACE APPEALED TO (Hebrews 13:20)
When we think here into the Scriptural concept of the “God of peace” the text suggests very strongly that we are to think of Jehovah God in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament Scriptures of this God as the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80:1). He leads his people like a flock. His dwelling place is in the heavens, between the heavenly cherubims. He dwells with Israel at the mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant: Here the blood of sprinkling was sprinkled by the High Priest atoning for our sins and making our peace. This was strongly portrayed in the Old Testament temple on each Day of Atonement, when all things were sprinkled with blood: temple, altar, priesthood, people. This was a picture of the cleansing of the heavenly temple with the blood of the Shepherd of Israel, Jesus whose blood speaks better things than that of Abel (Heb. 9:23).
The term “God of peace” perhaps means that God is the One who makes our peace. It is He who reconciled us with Himself in Christ. God did not need to be reconciled to us. He had thoughts of peace concerning us, and they are written in the “Volume of the Book” (Heb. 10:7; Ps. 40:6). This plan to bring about our peace is God’s alone. This never came up in the heart of man; these are the things which God has prepared for us. Now this God which makes our peace is the only God who can perfect us unto every good work and cause us to walk in his peace, love, joy, and all good works. The phrase “God of peace” is employed by Paul in Romans 15:33, where we read, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” In Romans 16:20 we read that the God of peace fights for the church as the seed of the woman “to bruise (tread) Satan under your feet shortly.” Here is a very evident allusion to Genesis 3:15. (*) The God of peace is here contrasted with all the conflict, discord, and division which Satan works in the world and in the church. He is the arch-foe with whom we have to contend in the battle of the ages (Eph. 6:10-12). And so here in the churches of the Hebrews Satan would seek to destroy the faith of these believers and have them return to the Old Testament shadows and types. Then there would be no pressing on to spiritual perfection either. Satan is the author of confusion, but God is not the author of confusion in the church, but of peace (I Cor. 14:33). And this “confusion” (akatastasia) is connected with envying and strife and every evil work. Where the God of peace has wrought His work, there whisperings, backbitings, debates, swellings and tumults disappear, and Satan is crushed under our feet. God is not the author of confusion but of peace. And the writer has brought to bear all the teachings of the Scripture to crush Satan under His mighty heel as he comes as an angel of light in these false teachers. Compare: II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9.
When we look at this “peace” which God brings about we notice that this peace is realized in the blood of Christ (Col. 1:20). At Calvary our peace was brought about in the atoning sacrifice, and this peace is not merely touching things on earth, but also the things in heaven. It is the ushering in of the heavenly tabernacle with all that is implied in God’s dwelling with man, as the God of peace from the mercy-seat. However, this peace is also such that God is the God of peace, making the Old Testament church and the New Testament church into one new manhood.
Now these verses under consideration are really abenediction in which God receives all the glory of the manifestation of His infinite virtues and praises. He will place all things under His feet in Christ and He will give peace to his people. God will be glorified in the Son. That is the reason for the Cross, death, burial, and resurrection and ascension of Christ at God’s right hand in these last days. It is a benediction prayer and wish which ends in “Amen.” And “Amen” means that God will more surely hear this prayer than what the writer feels in his heart that he desires this all of God, or that he will be heard (Question 129, Heid. Catechism). For the term Amen rests in the verity and power of God in Jesus, Who is called the “Amen of God.” All God’s promises are yea in Christ, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God by us” (Rev. 3:14; II Cor. 1:20). That which the writer wishes with holy desire for the church is to be realized “through Christ Jesus.” In this Christ all the promises of God for peace are Amen.
THE GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP FORTH FROM THE DEAD BY THE GOD PEACE (Hebrews 13:20)
There is something Old Testamental in the gauge here. Commonly the phraseology is “raised from the dead.” But here is a separation (ek) out of the dead which implies that it affected the “great Shepherd of the sheep.” This seems to indicate that it did not merely affect the person of the Son in our human nature by Himself, but rather in His relationship to the entire flock of God. His relationship to the flock is that of the good shepherd. He can only be the good shepherd whereas He is the great shepherd. The angel Gabriel told Mary that her Son would be “great.” John too would be great, but his greatness is that he may run before the chariot of the Great King. But this One will be great. He is God Himself in the flesh, and thus He is identical with the great God, Jehovah, the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80:1). David sings “The LORD is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). This great Shepherd has power to lay down His life and power to take it again. He lays down His life for His sheep. He and the Father are one. Only, as Shepherd He is the Son of God in the flesh, dwelling at the head of His people. Thus He can die for their sins on the cross. But God was in Christ, this Shepherd, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing our sins to us. The Old Testamental overtone here is in the words “led forth again” and it suggests very strongly the entire course of the history of salvation (heilsgeschiedenis) in which Israel was led out of Egypt and brought to Canaan, passing through the Red Sea, and leaving Egypt under the blood, the blood of the Passover. Thus God as the Shepherd of Israel led forth His people from the bondage of sin to the liberty of His covenant.
We must bear in mind that this was centrally realized in the death of Christ and was sealed in his resurrection, in which He was powerfully revealed to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4; Acts 13:32). He comes forth as the firstborn Son out of the dead, this great Shepherd of Israel. He had the right to come forth from the dead because He had been delivered for our offenses (Rom 4:25). And thus God, the Author of peace, our peace, brought forth the great Shepherd from out of the dead, never to return to the state of sin, death, confusion, enmity, strife, hatred and bloodshed. He has made the Old and New Testament saints one; He broke down the middle wall of partition, the enmity between those near and far, and made us one. We gather in a better tabernacle. We have come to mount Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. Legally, we have come to this new estate!
Thus the text affords in one grand statement a total back glance at all that he had taught in this letter—all in this grand doxological statement concerning the God of peace. The readers, and we with them, are thus summoned to attention, and awakened out of the stupor and illusion that we have already attained unto perfection. We are also alerted to the fact that He Who hath begun this good work for and in us, will needs have to finish it until the day of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:5-9;Phil. 1:6).
THE EFFICACIOUS SANCTIFYING WORK OF THE GOD OF PEACE (Hebrews 13:21)
It is quite evident from the form of the verb in the Greek, translated in the KJV “make perfect,” that it is a strong wish, a holy desire of ardent love on the part of the writer. The term “katartisai” is a first Aorist active optative. The term expressed a wish. The Aorist tense expresses point action. It indicates the once and for all of this perfecting of the saints, be it then over the entire period of their life, ending in their death, which is not a payment for sin, but a dying unto sin, and an entrance into glory (Heid. Cat., Question 2). The term itself indicates that the sanctification of the saints must be brought to a fullorbed life, so that no part is lacking.
(*) “God is called the God of peace because He is the author of peace (cf. vss. 5, 3). In view of the emphasis upon peace with God (Heb. 5:1, cf. Heb. 16:20; Eph. 2:14, 15,17; I Thess. 5:20; Heb. 13:20) we should infer that peace with God is primary.” Murray on Rom. 15:33, in part.